By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
There is no accounting for how Mexico’s Treasury Secretariat’s (Hacienda) Tax Administration Service (SAT) decides who to prosecute and who to let slide, other than the fact that, like all government offices directly under Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), it takes its orders from the president.
On Friday, July 29, the SAT notified the internationally disgraced Brazilian oil firm Odebrecht that it had canceled back-taxes fines for the amount of $1.811 billion pesos because there was no “tangible evidence” to prove that the company had obtained a contract from Mexico’s state-run Petróleos Mexicanos’ (Pemex) Tula refinery, in the central state of Hidalgo, “in an irregular manner.”
This, it should be noted, came after Odebrecht executives publicly confessed — in court — to having bribed Mexican officials for said contract.
And after López Obrador had badmouthed Odebrecht repeatedly over the course of the last three years for being “corrupt.”
It should also be noted that in Mexico, AMLO likes to take on the role of judge and jury, without any legal background or proof of his claims, but with a herd of ignorant “mi presidente” minions who share his deep disdain for law and order and the Mexican Constitution.
When silly little obstacles such as the law get in his way, all he has to do is procleaim the judges as paid-off lackeys and declare his intentions to proceed with a project as an act of “national security” — as he did with the recently-inaugurated-but-still-inoperable Dos Bocas oil refinery, the impossible-to-get-to Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA) and, most recently, the jungle-bulldozing Tren Maya tourist train (because, after all, it is easy to understand that a Kodak-wielding, 65-year-old grandmother from Newark taking photographs of Chichén Itzá definitely poses a threat to Mexico’s national security).
Simply put: In Mexico today, what AMLO wants, AMLO gets.
So why the sudden about-face when it it comes to Odebrecht?
One might be inclined to believe that the president and his coconspirators were bribed to drop the charges, but since López Obrador reassures us daily that he and his political team, unlike members of previous administrations, are incapable of corruption, this allegation must be discarded.
Meanwhile, the SAT has found a new prey to squeeze for cash to keep the coffers of the Mexican government churning: the company Alsea, which it has fined twice for a restaurant purchase operation from Walmart that took place in 2014, four years before AMLO came to office.
Alsea has claimed — and presented “tangible evidence” in the form of official tax statements — that all corresponding taxes were paid at the time.
But when the SAT gets you in its sights, there is nothing to keep you safe from AMLOian justice.
Perhaps Alsea would be well-advised to take a cue from Odebrecht and find out what legal paths (or political pockets) to grease to break free from the SAT crosshairs.